Austria on announced a ban on apres-ski events blamed for creating coronavirus hotspots earlier this year and issued warnings about travel to Paris, Prague and other destinations.
Although infections in this alpine country are rising rapidly, authorities are adamant that world-famous Austrian ski resorts – which generate enormous tourism revenues – will still be open in the coming winter season.
Thousands of tourists from all over the world became infected in cramped bars on the ski slopes in early March. This time, a strict social distance and hygiene measures will be imposed – said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
“It will not be possible for après ski to be what we are used to in the past because the risk of infection is too high … Skiing fun yes, but without après ski,” he told reporters. Tourists are required to maintain a distance of at least one meter (three feet) at all times, wear masks on cable cars and gondolas, and bars and restaurants will only serve drinks and food to seated customers. “Standing side by side, dancing and singing in small bars and open-air bars are potential outbreaks of infection,” said Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger.
Another tourist attraction, the country’s Christmas markets, will also be allowed to open this year, provided that safety rules such as masks and social distancing are respected. Austria is heavily dependent on tourism, and recent travel warnings to certain parts of Austria, including from neighboring Germany, have hit the industry hard.
For its part, Austria has also enacted legislation requiring travelers from regions with high infection rates to pass coronavirus testing or self-isolate. Austria on Thursday issued new travel alerts for Paris, Prague, Israel and many other destinations, but removed Sweden, Australia, Japan and other countries from the list. Austria, with a population of almost 9 million, has so far totaled over 44,000 cases and 799 deaths from the coronavirus.